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Raanta brilliant as Rangers take down Columbus in Eric Staal’s debut

Bobby Bevilacqua

rangers vs blue jackets 2-29

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

In Eric Staal’s debut, the New York Rangers (37-20-6) came away with a thrilling late victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets (26-30-8) thanks to a shorthanded goal from Derek Stepan, and 26 saves from Antti Raanta.

That extended the Rangers win streak to three games, including wins in five of their last six games. They also are 10-2-1 in the last 13 games, and 23-6-3 on home ice.

Eric Staal made his debut as a Ranger tonight, skating for 15:43 at center and on the wing. He didn’t pick up a point, but won 53% of his faceoffs and was solid defensively as well as with the puck. As he get practices and more games in, I’m sure he will be more comfortable and more effective.

With Jesper Fast out of the lineup, Dylan McIlrath took his spot and played right wing on the fourth line. Eric Staal was centering the third line with Kevin Hayes and Oscar Lindberg. On his first shift, he drove hard to the net, was working hard on the forecheck and delivered a big hit.

But apart from a few chances early on, the Rangers didn’t do all that much offensively. They had some early shots but the Blue Jackets wound up dominating the offensive zone time and even recording nine consecutive shots on goal. They had more possession and weren’t allowing shots to get through to Joonas Korpisalo.

That meant that Antti Raanta had his work cut out for him early, and he was ready for the task. Raant faced a few good quality chances and stopped them all, including a few nice glove saves and some good work with the stick. He finished with 13 first period saves.

With just under three minutes to go, Mats Zuccarello broke through with the first goal of the game, and his 21st of the season. Zuccarello got the puck from Dan Boyle and went behind the net, coming out around to the left of Korpisalo and sending a quick shot on net. The puck deflected off of Korpisalo’s stick and underneath his shoulder, sneaking in and giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Boyle’s lone assist on the goal marked his 599th career point.

After that, the Rangers had a bit of a late surge, with Oscar Lindberg nearly scoring his first goal in quite some time, but his wrist shot hit the goal post. New York was outshot 13-8 but held a 1-0 lead after the first period.

The second period was largely uneventful, with both teams concentrating on their defensive play and not giving up many scoring chances. The Rangers played a much more complete game in this period, really locking down defensively and blocking more shots. Ryan McDonagh continued to play very well defensively, breaking up plays and moving the puck well.

Raanta didn’t have as much work in this period, but still stopped all eight shots that he faced. He made two great saves late in the period, stopping Foligno on back-to-back shots and laying down on the puck in the crease. The Blue Jackets were up in shots, 21-13, after two periods.

The third period began with more action than the last two periods combined. Raanta made a nice pad stop early on and Korpisalo denied Derick Brassard on the rebound as well as Dan Boyle’s redirection, keeping the Rangers from extending their lead.

But just 3:46 into the third period, Cam Atkinson scored off of a turnover and tied the game at one. Dan Girardi made a poor pass at the blueline and sent the puck right over to Atkinson. He used his speed to outpace Girardi and send a shot at Raanta, which he stopped, but Atkinson scored on the rebound and tied the game at one.

Then the Rangers started to pick up the pace and build some offensive chances of their own. Kevin Hayes had a breakaway after a shot block but Korpisalo made a nice pad save. Then the Blueshirts had the game’s first power play chance, but could not find the back of the net despite some great chances.

With less than five minutes remaining, Marc Staal got sent to the box for a tripping call, putting the Rangers down a man and on a crucial penalty kill. But after some strong defense, it was the Rangers scoring the go-ahead goal.

Ryan McDonagh made an excellent play to move the puck up to Derek Stepan, and he moved in on net. Stepan held off his defender, made a fantastic deke and shot the puck into the open net, giving New York a 2-1 lead with 2:38 to go.

The Blue Jackets were pushing hard for the tying goal, but Antti Raanta did an excellent job holding down the fort late. With just two second left, Raanta made two huge saves; one on a wrap-around and another amazing left pad save on Atkinson as time expired, giving the Rangers a big two points.

The Ranger have two days off before a two game road trip, starting with a game on Thursday against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

THREE STARS

1) Antti Raanta – 26 SV, .963 SV%

2) Derek Stepan – 1 G, 3 SOG, 2 TK, 18:17 TOT

3) Ryan McDonagh – 1 A, 3 BS, 23:16 TOT

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Posted on March 1, 2016, in Game Recaps and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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